They Risked All

The-American-Patriots-Almanac-365-reasons-to-love-AmericaThe following is taken from The American Patriot’s Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb.

On July 4, 1776, delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence. The men who issued that famous document realized they were signing their own death warrants, since the British would consider them traitors. Many suffered hardship during the Revolutionary War.

William Floyd of New York saw the British use his home for a barracks. His family fled to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees. After the war Floyd found his fields stripped and house damaged.

Richard Stockton of New Jersey was dragged from his from his bed, thrown into prison, and treated liked a common criminal. His home was looted and his fortune badly impaired. He was released in 1777, but his health was broken. He died a few years later.

At age sixty-three, John Hart, another New Jersey signer, hid in the woods during December 1776 while Hessian soldiers hunted him across the countryside. He died before the war’s end. The New Jersey Gazette reported that he “continued to the day he was seized with his last illness to discharge the duties of a faithful and upright patriot in the service of his country.”

Thomas Nelson, a Virginian, commanded militia and served as governor during the Revolution. He reportedly instructed artillerymen to fire at his own house in Yorktown when he heard the British were using it as a headquarters. Nelson used his personal credit to raise money for the Patriot cause. His sacrifices left him in financial distress, and he was unable to repair his Yorktown home after the war.

Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge, three South Carolina signers, served in their state’s militia and were captured when the British seized Charleston. They spent a year in a St. Augustine prison and, when released, found their estates plundered.

Such were the prices paid so we may celebrate freedom every Fourth of July.

Write “Mississippilessly”

Spray-Tan-02Do you remember that scene in Friends where Ross keeps getting 2’s sprayed on his face in the tanning booth? It’s probably one of my favorite scenarios in the series.

In the scene, Ross goes to a tanning salon where he is told to count to five after his front has been sprayed, then turn around so his back can get sprayed.

Once the first spray goes off, he begins counting:

“One-Mississippi. Two-Mississippi. Three-Miss-“

And the spray goes off again before he turns around.

The result is Chandler sarcastically suggesting he went to the sun to get his tan.

We’re like that sometimes with our writing, aren’t we? We get stuck in a system, or what we think is our “groove.” We think the only way to count is “Mississippily.”

When really, all we need to do is let go of some of our inhibitions or habits and let the story (or blog post or essay or article) tell itself. We just need to be there to dictate the words.

I’ll sometimes follow an outline when I write, but then when the story starts taking its own course, I get nervous thinking that I shouldn’t be straying from the outline. But I’ve got to be willing to go with the flow and see where the story is taking me.

Think about the steps you can take today to write “Mississippilessly” and let your story take on a life of its own, without you getting in the way.


It Doesn’t Stop at The Hunger Games

gregor series

While writing my young readers historical fiction book about a dachshund in Nazi Germany, I’ve been reading two types of books: historical books surrounding the Nazi era and young readers books.

While it’s pretty easy to find really enthralling historical books, young readers books that aren’t dumbed down are kind of hard to come by, outside of Harry Potter and a few classical works.

My wife and I are big fans of The Hungers Games books, so I asked her, “Would you be interested in reading Suzanne Collins children’s book series?”

“What are they about?”

“This kid who goes underground and meets giant bugs and rats and spiders and stuff.”

“No way,” she said. “That sounds gross.”

So, I got her the set for Christmas.

You may be reading this and thinking, I’ve heard of Collins’s young readers books, and giant insects and stuff just don’t appeal to me.

Let me tell you that Sarabeth and I have both read the series since Christmas and are in love with Gregor the Overlander.

Don’t judge a book before you read it. Suzanne Collins is at the top of her game with her Gregor series. There are very similar themes as in The Hunger Games, and even though they’re directed at young readers instead of teens, I’m not quite sure the subject matter is any less impactful and thought-provoking.

Gregor is a twelve-year-old boy who accidentally falls down the laundry chute with his two-year-old sister, Boots. Together, they fall down, down, down to the Underland, an entire underground world that exists underneath New York City.

There, they befriend humans and giant cockroaches and spiders and bats – who are the main mode of transportation. Like The Hunger Games, hardly anything in these books is at all predictable.

The first book, Gregor the Overlander, was a wonderful introduction to this dark world, and introduced probably one of my favorite literary characters of all time (he’s a giant rodent) who remains a key player throughout the series. Books 2-3 weren’t as captivating, but there’s enough action that young kids – boys or girls – would enjoy them. Book 4, The Marks of Secret, was a good prelude to the final book of the series – The Code of Claw – which was one of the coolest, and heartbreaking, conclusions to a series I can remember.

Collins is a master at causing you to feel sympathy for her characters, be they people, cockroaches, bats, or rats. Her plots are very deep and interwoven, but not so complicated that an eight-year-old wouldn’t get it.

Sarabeth and I will both be returning to these books very soon, and will most definitely pass them down to our kids (though because there are some very gruesome and gory scenes, we would suggest no younger than eight, depending on the child’s maturity level).

But even if you don’t have kids and you’re just looking for a great series to get immersed in, I can’t recommend Gregor enough. Another treat by Collins, is her children’s picture book, Year of the Jungle, which serves as sort of her mini-autobiography and explains a lot about the inspiration behind her books.


Some Reading Fun

Enjoy this excerpt from my book, The Man in the Box. There will be a release date for the second edition coming soon. And don’t forget to Like The Man in the Box Facebook page for a chance to win a free, autographed copy!

From Chapter 18

Robbie turned off the radio. It was up to him to break the ice. He said, “We missed you at breakfast.”

Taylor continued to stare at the window with her chin in her hand.

“That coffee’s for you,” he said, motioning toward the mug in the cup holder beside them. “Just cream. No sugar.”

“I like sugar now,” mumbled Taylor.

Robbie nodded, taking note of one of the many changes about his little girl. “How’s Darrin?” he asked, but bit his tongue as soon as the wrong name snuck out of his mouth.

“It’s Dwayne. And fine.”

“You never did tell me why you were crying last night. I figured you had broken up.”

“Dwayne wants me to go to a party that I know you’re not going to let me go to; it’s no big deal, okay? There. You know all you need to know.” She said this as she pulled a piece of paper out of a side pocket from her duffle bag and shoved it in his direction.

Robbie didn’t know what frustrated him more: the fact that this twerp was pressuring his daughter to go to a party or that she was still dating him.

Wanting to steer clear of the romance department, he ignored the paper she was pushing toward him and decided to just jump in feet first and get to the bottom of last night’s escape attempt. He asked, “What happened last night? Where were you going? Were you going to that party?”

“No, I wasn’t. It’s not for a while. Next month or something,” was Taylor’s muffled response.

“You know you’re grounded, right?”

“Good. I love missing out on my social life,” snapped Taylor, throwing the paper to the floorboard in a fit.

“Hey. Don’t get smart with me,” retorted Robbie, growing angry.

Taylor threw back, “You’re the ones who think you’re so smart! You don’t even know what I was doing last night!”

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you were sneaking out, Taylor. So maybe we’re not as smart as you think!” Robbie shook his head and vilified himself for his absent-minded comeback.

Taylor just rolled her eyes and turned her head away, refocusing her sight out the window.

After a moment, a calmer Robbie asked, “So what were you doing last night?”

“What do youcare? You’re too busy coming up with reasons to get me in trouble.”

“Not get you in trouble. We’re trying to keep you fromtrouble.”

Taylor just mimicked Robbie, sticking her lower lip out in a mock gesture. He just about blew a fuse. He prayed her own children would be just like her for the sole purpose of making her pay for all of his headaches.

“Here’s a newsflash Taylor,” started Robbie. “If you would just talkto us, then maybe we wouldn’t be so suspicious of whatever you’re doing. What is it, Taylor? I care; talk to me. Is it drugs?”


“You’re not into that voodoo Wicca stuff are you?”


“Is it sex?”


“Oh please don’t let it be sex. You already have a kid, don’t you?”

“Yes, Dad, I managed to hide my fat stomach from the entire family for nine months.”

“You see! I don’t know if you’re telling me the truth right now or just being sarcastic with me which, as you know, would be lying,” yelled Robbie. “I don’t know how to read you.”

“Why do you even have to read me at all? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

Robbie stopped behind a line of cars at the stoplight. “Because you’re my daughter, and that’s not what parents do, Taylor. Apparently you’ll find that out in about fifteen years when little Wayne is sitting in your spot and you’re driving him to school.”

Taylor sighed in utter frustration saying, “I don’t have a baby, Dad!”

“Is there a chance that you could be having one?” Robbie awkwardly asked, unable to suppress his curiosity.

The light was still red, and Taylor flew open the door and jumped out of the car yelling over her shoulder, “I’m walking to practice!” Then she slammed the door, flying her duffle bag over her shoulder.

Robbie, in a moment of utter shock, had his eyes only on Taylor when he gassed the car to follow after her. He flew right into the car in front of him, lurching him forward, catching on the seatbelt. The sound of crunching metal sent him into a panic as he saw dollar signs float away on wings all around him. The coffee spilled all over his right leg throwing him into a world of pain, and he clumsily tried pulling his pant leg apart from his skin to ease the burn.

He looked at Taylor who was just a few feet away, expecting her to come back to the car. But she just gave him those eyes that told him he was just plain embarrassing and continued to walk off.


Book Trailer!

It’s not a video, but I’ve taken parts of my book and compiled them into movie trailer format. Enjoy the “trailer” to my book, like it on Facebook, and buy it when the new and improved edition is released!

“Look out your window. Is that a dinosaur, Jeremy?” Robbie asks his son in the back seat, who stays glued to the game on his iPad. “You know, stomping around. Eating things?” Robbie’s wife, Rosalynn, looks at him with a smirk from the passenger seat.


Gothic_Boy_Small_crop_large“Who’s this?” asks Robbie, interrupting his daughter’s kiss with the creepy-looking college kid. “This is Dwayne. Dwayne, my dad.”

“Good to meet you, kiddo,” says Robbie, shaking his hand. “Derek, was it?”


“While your blood sugar and heart level are fine, there seems to be a blockage which is just a bit concerning to me,” says the doctor from across the desk.

“How concerning?” asks Rosalynn, reaching for Robbie’s hand.

“Concerning enough that we’re going to have to keep you overnight.”


“Toy’s debut novel will leave readers talking and will make them instant fans of his storytelling abilities.” -Nicole McManus, reviewer and blogger


“I’m sure you know we’re letting people go.” says Robbie’s boss.fired

“Don’t do this to me, Kurt.”

“I’ll give you a good reference. I’m sorry, Robbie. We’re only keeping a small handful of people, if it makes you feel better.”

Oh yes. Much, thinks Robbie.


“I’ve got something big,” says Robbie’s coworker. “You won’t believe what I found. We have access to his clients. We use these leads, we’ll have jobs again in no time!”

“What do we have to do?” Robbie asks.

“We sneak in, pull up the information, print it out, and leave.”


Robbie is in an empty warehouse, tapping his foot anxiously, waiting for the age-old man-peeking-out-of-moving-boxprinter to print the documents. He hears the bar on the door move. Panicking, he jumps inside a nearby cardboard box, just big enough to fit him if he scrunches. He closes his eyes

and all goes black.

When he opens his eyes he sees that he is crouching in a giant puddle of crystal-blue phosphorescent water. The water glows brightly enough to reveal a vast cavern surrounding him.


Robbie, still dressed in his suit, is in the jungle talking to a little girl.

The girl takes a step toward him and lifts his tie from his chest. “This looks stupid. Do you use it to swat at flies or something?”

“No. It’s just for looks. It makes me look powerful and in control,” answers Robbie.


jungle“I’m so glad you’re finally with us,” a beautiful young woman says to Robbie. She opens her arms and asks, “May I?”

Only for the rest of our lives, thinks Robbie, looking nervous.

“You don’t look powerful and in control to me,” observes the little girl nearby.


“It’s getting dark,” says the young woman. “We need to go underground now.”

“Why?” asks Robbie.zombies

“Because they’ll be here soon.”



Chills go down Robbie’s spine at the thought of supernatural beings reaping havoc mere feet above his head, and all because they are looking for him.


“This was a heart-stopping suspense adventure like I haven’t read in a long time.” -Cherese Vines, author and blogger


The little girl bites down hard on Robbie’s hand underwater. He screams.


“What happened to your hand?” asks Rosalynn, in their kitchen. Robbie is back home now.

“I had the most incredible dream ever!” Robbie explains. “I was on this island and this little girl was chasing me through some caves and she tried to drown me. That’s when she bit me. Then we saw a dinosaur—an actual, real dinosaur, Rosalynn! Isn’t that insane?”

He uses the word “insane” the same way one might use the word “cool” or “unbelievable”. But Rosalynn obviously takes it for its literal meaning.

“Yes, it is. Honey, I think you need to relax for a bit.”


centipedesRobbie, back in the jungle is pinned to the tree by a giant centipede, while dozens of little ones scurry up his legs into his pants.


“What are we hiding from every night?” Robbie asks the beautiful woman.


“What are they?”


A prufla is breathing heavily on the woman’s neck in a dimly-lit space. It has the form of a corpse with blotchy skin like vegetable bruises. Its eyes are rolled into the back of its head and two slits are where its nose should be.


“Why not just fight them?” asks Robbie. “Declare war.”

An old man shakes his head. “They don’t live. So they can’t be killed. Victory would be impossible.”


“I’m finding centipedes everywhere,” says Rosalynn. “I must’ve killed three of them today.”


Taylor comes running downstairs, screaming, and shaking centipedes out of her hair.


Robbie is in his backyard and slowly backs away as small dinosaurs come crawling out of Eoraptor1the box toward him.


“Get back in the box, Robbie,” says an old man in his house.


“Get back in the box or I’ll kill your family off one by one.”


Robbie is frantically ushering his family in the car. Once they’re all in, he peers in the window at Rosalynn and says, “You guys need to get out of here. Drive anywhere; I don’t care. Just get away from here!”


Jeremy is in the back seat of the car sitting next to the box. “Mom. There’s something moving in this box back here.”

“It’s probably just the bumps in the road, sweetheart,” assures Rosalynn.

man in boxSECOND EDITION – SPRING 2014


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Is Divergent as Good as Hunger Games?

divergentThis is a spoiler-free review.

I just read Divergent by Veronica Roth.

Apparently she wrote it while she was in college and two other books completes her trilogy.

Like Hunger Games, it is set in a dystopian world, and also like Hunger Games, it is written in that awesome first-person present tense style that really seems to be catching on.

You should know that my wife and I are pretty obsessed when it comes to Hunger Games, and I’m sure Roth doesn’t appreciate her story being compared to something so superior.

However, one can hardly divorce the two.

Divergent lacks the big-picture suspense story that carries Hunger Games, as it’s sometimes hard to see where Roth is taking her readers. There’s little setup from the start, explaining her dystopian Chicago, which could have served as great suspense marks.

But at the same time, it’s not such a bad thing to learn about things as the protagonist does.

When I finished Divergent, Sarabeth asked me the same question everyone else is wondering: “Is it better than Hunger Games?

My answer was no.

“If you hadn’t read Hunger Games, would you have liked it more?”

My answer again, was no.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoyed the book. But unlike Hunger Games, my criticisms kept building up.

My biggest hangup with the book was the love story.

Now, I realize this is a teen book centered around an adolescent girl, but I just kept rolling my eyes each time the love interests came together for yet more snogging and oohing and awing.

To be honest, it’s the most I’ve wanted to throw up due to such over-the-top sentiments.

Maybe I wouldn’t’ve felt that way if it wasn’t so forced and manufactured. Really, it was just very difficult to buy into.

As for the rest of the book?

I actually enjoyed the author’s world where society is broken up into separate factions based off of different virtues. It is a very well thought-out world, and many scenes were quite heart-stopping as you had no idea what the sadist villain was going to come up with next (don’t you just love a terribly wicked bad guy?).

Would I recommend it? Sure thing. A good fiction is hard to find these days, and I would qualify this as good enough. I’ll certainly be reading the next two books when they’re available in paperback.

However, I will say this. I’d much sooner allow my kids to read Hunger Games long before I hand Divergent over to them. It’s not as sexual, Katniss isn’t all googly-eyed and wounded by Cupid, and the lines of good vs. evil aren’t so blurred.

What are your thoughts on the book? Which series do you like better? Share your thoughts below.

Writing Romance

Slide1It doesn’t take long to scroll through my posts to see that I’m not a big fan of romantic comedies.

Oh, sure, there’s a couple of romantic comedies I do like. Sweet Home Alabama for one. I love it for its stance on marriage and commitment. I like Elizabethtown because it’s so weird and quirky, and is actually about more than just the boy and girl falling in love.

There’s a select few others that I enjoy, but those are the best of the bunch. As for the rest of them… they’re kind of like super hero movies in that they’re all basically the same (with the exception of the Dark Knight trilogy).

So I’m writing a romantic comedy that’s different from the rest (a book, mind you, not a screenplay). Fans of my first book The Man in the Box won’t meet up with dinosaurs or man-eating ghosts or gargantuan jungle cats. But you’ll still be able to relate to the main characters of my book in progress, Our Life Captured. 

It’s still in the works, and I will likely have it done by the end of summer. But please start showing support for it by joining the Facebook page to receive updates, news, quotes, and, who knows – I might even need your help to dish out some punchlines for me.

So what’s it about? I don’t want to give too much away right now, but I will say this:

The two things everyone wants most in this world… quick, what are they?

Love is one, yes.

And the other? We all want attention, recognition …fame.

And that’s just what is offered in Our Life Captured.

Love and fame are just a click away.

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